|Kosovo Police. Photo: BIRN|
Despite reports that Serbs have been asking to leave the Kosovo Security Force amid an upsurge of political tensions between Belgrade and Pristina, the number of Serbs who want to join the Kosovo Police remains similar to 2014, the force said.
Kosovo Police told BIRN that in 2014, over 5 per cent of applicants were Serbs, “while this year there was around 5 per cent (4.91 per cent)”.
“Based on the statistics and the percentage of applicants from the Serb community, a consistent interest from this community in joining the Kosovo Police is noted,” the police said.
“Interest [in joining the force] has been almost proportional” to the number of Serbs living in Kosovo as a percentage of the total population, the police insisted.
The force has over 8,600 members, including uniformed and administrative staff.
“The participation of the Serb community in the Kosovo Police is over 11 per cent,” Kosovo Police said.
But Mentor Vrajolli, a senior researcher at the Kosovo Centre for Security Studies, suggested that many Serbs have joined the Kosovo Police under an agreement between Belgrade and Pristina to dismantle the Serb-controlled parallel security structures that previously existed in Kosovo.
“A large number of them are recruited based on the implementation of the agreement between Kosovo and Serbia for the dismantling of the parallel structures when members of these structures joined the Kosovo Police,” Vrajolli told BIRN.
Vrajolli said that Kosovo institutions have failed to work on improving the image of Serbs serving with the Kosovo Police.
“Especially in the [Serb-majority] northern part of Kosovo, I have noticed that Serb members of Kosovo Police are reviled by [local] society; they are seen as people who do not work for the [Serb] community’s interests,” Vrajolli said.
“Consequently there is no enthusiasm among these members [of the force], they work more for the salaries than to offer services as Kosovo Police members,” he added.
Media in both Kosovo and Serbia recently reported that several Serb members of the multi-ethnic Kosovo Security Force have recently left it, with Kosovo politicians blaming Belgrade for allegedly pressurising Serbs to quit.
The Kosovo Security Force minister, Rrustem Berisha, confirmed in July that the force had received requests from some Serb members to leave.
“According to ministry estimates, these requests come as a result of intentional attacks on the Kosovo Security Force, members of the Serb community are attempting to damage the achievements and development of the Kosovo Security Force as well as its image as the most reliable [security force] in the country for years,” Berisha told a press conference.
Vrajolli suggested that the Kosovo Security Force is seen by Belgrade more of a state institution and that is why “the pressure on KSF Serb members is bigger than on members of the Kosovo Police”.
He also urged Kosovo’s institutions to put more effort into winning over the country’s ethnic minorities.
“There should be investments in encouraging communities into integration,” he said.
“It might not be a surprise if Serb members quit, as the government has not been working on improving their image within their community,” he added.